DHAKA: Bangladesh has proposed creating “safe zones” run by aid groups for Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing into its territory following a military crackdown.

The plan, the latest in a string of ideas floated by Dhaka, is unlikely to get much traction in Myanmar, where many consider the Rohingya community of 1.1 million as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. That will leave Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations in the world, with little choice but to open new camps for refugees. 

Dhaka sent the proposal to the Myanmar government through the International Committee of the Red Cross to secure three areas in Rakhine, home to the Rohingya community, suggesting that people displaced by the violence be relocated there under the supervision of an international organization, such as the United Nations.

“The logic of the creation of such zones is that no Rohingya can come inside Bangladesh,” said Shahidul Haque, Bangladesh’s foreign secretary, the top civil servant in the foreign ministry.

The Red Cross confirmed that it had passed on the request to Myanmar but said that it was a political decision for the two countries to make.    

A Myanmar government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, a mostly Muslim nation of 160 million, from Buddhist-majority Myanmar in recent years.

The decades-old conflict in Rakhine flared most recently on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked several police posts and an army base. Since then, an estimated 270,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, joining more than 400,000 others already living there in cramped makeshift camps since the early 1990s.

There are widespread fears that tens of thousands more could try to cross if the violence doesn’t abate. Recent pictures from the border between the two countries show hundreds of Rohingya men, women and children trying to cross over into Bangladesh on foot and by boat.

The humanitarian crisis next door has left Bangladesh scrambling to deal with people that it does not welcome either.

In recent days, Bangladesh officials have said they plan to go ahead with a controversial plan to develop an isolated, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal to temporarily house tens of thousands of refugees, drawing fresh criticism from the international community.

“TEMPORARY SHELTER”

It bowed to pressure on Thursday, with government officials saying that Dhaka would now make another 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of land available for camps to house refugees near Cox’s Bazar, where many refugees already live as it is near the border with Myanmar.